Invest to ride into recovery on a cloud

Cutting back on spending will help companies get through the recession, but cost-cutting does not prepare a business for the eventual recovery.    It is vital that organisations continue to invest in strategic research and development, argues Kishore Swaminathan, chief scientist at Accenture.

Business leaders will inevitably take tactical, cost-cutting measures to survive, but Swaminathan urges companies to maintain long-term R&D.  In his words, the landscape will change by the time we move out of recession: some companies will no longer exist and there will be new competition. By investing now, he believes businesses will be able to take advantage of new opportunities as the economy recovers.

The big question is where to invest. Cloud and internet computing will allow businesses to scale up and down far quicker and adapt to customer demand much faster than the traditional approach of building and buying large amounts of IT infrastructure upfront.

The last recession precipitated the rise in offshore and traditional outsourcing – cloud computing will be one area of IT to take off during and after the current economic slump.

Mobility is another hot technology area that will give workers greater flexibility. CIOs need to assess whether their IT departments are doing the best job they can to support teleworking and hot-desking. Twitter may be considered a toy, but Accenture is using a Twitter-like business-oriented service to enable consultants working in different parts of the business to listen in on what colleagues are saying and stay informed. In fact, Swaminathan believes that collaboration through social networking could replace e-mail.

So how can IT directors and CIOs prepare? These are cultural changes. IT has to understand the needs of front-office staff and support the way well-informed internet-generation workers want to work.

The venture capital community is already investing in hot areas such as real-time business analytics. It is time for IT directors to look beyond the current doom and gloom, and plan for a bright and prosperous future.